Financing Pakistan education and beyond
June 2008: There are a number of studies that support the linkage between education and
development. Education per se is not development but can prepare individuals to
enhance their chances of exploring ways and means for development.
relationship between education and development is a two-way process, that is,
quality education leads to development and development can pave the way for
In recent times, the term 'knowledge economy' has
become a currency concept. In most developing countries, the state of education
in quantitative and qualitative terms is questionable. Recognising the
significant role education can play, rulers in developing countries should
invest more in education as this investment may ensure a bright future for
In 1997, Mongolia allocated 8.5 per cent of its GDP to education.
Pakistan was at the lowest rung of the ladder as its allocation for education
was only 2.2 per cent of GDP. This amount was less than the amount allocated by
the Maldives (8.1), Iran (5.4), Malaysia (5.1), South Korea (4.2), Thailand
(4.0), India (3.7), Sri Lanka (3.1), Nepal (2.9), Afghanistan (2.3) and
Bangladesh (2.3). These figures suggest the lack of priority given to education
by Pakistan's decision-makers. Is it because we do not have enough financial
resources that we cannot allocate more funds for education?
hasten to answer this question let us see what the military expenditure was as a
percentage of GDP in 2006. Here Pakistan is on the top rung with 3.2 per cent
followed by Sri Lanka (2.6), India (2.5), Nepal (1.6), Bangladesh (1.5) and
Bhutan (one per cent). This suggests that it is more an issue of priority than
that of financial resources.
According to the CIA Fact Book, "Pakistan's
proposed defence budget for financial year 2006-07 accounts for about one-fifth
of the total budget and is 20 times more than what the country plans to spend on
education and health. The country's percentage rise in the defence budget was
more than 15 per cent in 2005-06. Pakistan's defence budget as a percentage of
GDP is 4.5 per cent (2006) and Rs4.26bn in total (ranked 39th)."
of the defence budget is normally not fully visible. Some interesting strategies
have been evolved to downplay the impact. For instance, in 2001 the amount spent
on the pensions of armed personnel was not shown as a part of the defence
budget; it was mentioned under civil expenditure. Similarly, according to the
CIA Fact Book, a large sum to buy F-16s multi-role fighter jets from the United
States and the JF-17 Thunder fighters from China was kept separately.If we want
to understand the real nature of the problem, we have to look at its four
dimensions. Only then can we appreciate the gravity of the issue of financing
education. The first dimension is that Pakistan is allocating a very small
percentage of its GDP for education whereas relatively a larger chunk goes
towards military expenditure.
The second dimension is quite disturbing.
This is the actual expenditure. In defence, more money is spent than the
estimated amount. But in education, a large amount of money remains unspent
because of various reasons. Either the promised money is not released on time,
or money is re-appropriated, or the process of the release of money is so
complex that the heads of educational institutions give up.
be any reason but the fact is that in almost all plans a large amount remains
unspent. A couple of examples should suffice to give an idea of the problem. For
instance, in the Second Five-Year Plan (1960-65) Rs78m was allocated for primary
education whereas only Rs18m was actually spent. Similarly, in the Seventh
Five-Year Plan (1988-93) Rs10128m was allocated for primary education whereas
only Rs6399.17m was actually spent. These are just two examples which show the
overall trend in spending on education. Contrary to this, spending on defence is
more than the estimated figures given in the budget.
The third dimension
which is equally important is the appropriateness of the spent money. The
post-9/11 scenario saw the inflow of massive foreign aid for 'better education'
in Pakistan. This was a great opportunity to utilise financial resources in an
appropriate manner. For instance, in the Parha Likha Punjab (literate Punjab)
programme for which a large sum of money was available, nothing concrete could
be achieved because much was spent on political appointments and image-building
advertisements in the print and electronic media. Crash teacher education
courses were organised without any meaningful change in the education
The perennial problem in the domain of education in Pakistan is
that each government comes up with attractive slogans without the required
political will. The result is that we are still grappling with the issues of
quality at a very basic level.
The fourth dimension in financing
education is lack of monitoring and accountability that has encouraged people to
experiment, mess up and get away with their errors. What happened to some good
educational initiatives, for instance, the Nai Roshni schools? Where did the
funds collected in the name of Iqra go? Why did projects with huge foreign funds
fail? We may never know the answers to these questions as there is no strong
tradition of accountability in Pakistan.
Thus low allocation,
under-spending, inappropriate spending and lack of accountability have done
untold damage to the education sector in the country. What is happening is
linked to socio-political practices in the wider sphere of society. For
instance, for a long period of Pakistan's history the army has overtly and
covertly dominated politics. That is why the tendency has been to spend more on
defence. Educational initiatives were not given due importance.
glaring inconsistencies in the policies of different governments resulting in
half-baked ideas and practices. What is required is a new perspective. By
understanding the significance of education, allocating more funding for it and
spending the money in a more appropriate manner, we can hope to bring about a
Change in the educational sphere is linked to the bigger
societal sphere whose socio-political practices impact on education. Does that
mean that we must wait until societal practices change and then start working
for improvement in education? An alternative route is to improve our education
in terms of its quality for societal development - a concept of development
which is not confined to economic well-being alone but that ensures emancipation
and individual freedom as well.
The writer is director of Centre for
Humanities and Social Sciences, Lahore School of Economics and author of
Rethinking Education in Pakistan.
By Dr Shahid Siddiqui (Dawn)
"Very realistic writing but there are numerous reasons lay in this sphere"
City, Country: Abbottabad, Pakistan
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